Finland donates vaccination doses to Laos and Vietnam

While Finland has donated its excess Covid-19 vaccines to countries such as Laos and Vietnam, many other countries are turning the gesture down, according to a news report.

Finland’s donated vaccination doses have headed to countries in Africa, Asia as well as the Middle East. The first batches went to the Ivory Coast in October, and since then vaccines were donated to Egypt, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Nigeria and a small batch to Syria.

Finland has donated around three million Covid vaccine doses to other countries via an international distribution system. However, finding countries willing to accept the donations has been increasingly difficult as demand for the doses has dwindled.

“Among others, the African Union no longer receives vaccines [donated] from the EU,” said Sari Ekholm, senior advisor of medical affairs at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

Europe began donating large quantities of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine in November 2021, as countries, including Finland, stopped using the jabs.

At the end of October, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) announced that the country would stop using AstraZeneca’s Vaxzevria coronavirus vaccine by the end of November.

Questions about rare cases of blood clots in some recipients of those jabs raised concern about the vaccine’s safety in Finland as well as abroad.

This year, some African countries have refused delivery of the AstraZeneca jabs, one made by Johnson & Johnson, and other general vaccines, as they can be more selective now that supply is outstripping demand.

“People in many African countries don’t trust AstraZeneca, unfortunately they also do not trust things sent to them from the West,” said Eija Limnell, a senior diplomat at Finland’s foreign affairs ministry.

Finland’s donated vaccination doses have headed to countries in Africa, Asia as well as the Middle East. The first batches went to the Ivory Coast in October, and since then vaccines were donated to Egypt, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Nigeria and a small batch to Syria.

The donations are organised and distributed by an international organisation called Covax — or Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access — an initiative that aims for equitable access to Covid vaccines.

Limnell said that Finland’s donations are primarily sent to poor and fragile countries.

Expiration dates approach

In April, around 195,000 Covid vaccine doses were administered in Finland. The THL distributes the jabs to health care districts around the country which then delivers them to individual municipalities.

At the peak of Finland’s Covid vaccination efforts, the health care district of Lapland administered thousands of doses per week, but that number has fallen to a few hundred weekly doses.

The reasons behind the steep decline include an easing of the pandemic as well as changes to THL’s recommendations regarding the jabs, according to Lapland health care district hospital pharmacist, Leena Laine.

She noted that the roughly three million doses Finland currently has stockpiled can provide all of the country’s so-called second booster jabs (or fourth doses) as well as third vaccinations for kids over the age of five.

Over the summer smaller batches of Covid vaccines will arrive in Finland, with larger shipments expected in the autumn. However, most of the country’s stored jabs will expire by November, according to THL’s specialist physician Anniina Virkku.

“There are some smaller batches whose [expiration] dates are approaching, but for the most part, there’s still plenty of time left,” Virkku told Yle.

Both the foreign ministry and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health are looking into the possibility of directly donating vaccines to individual countries, in cooperation with other Nordic countries.

Source: yle

About Jaqueline Deeon

ScandAsia Journalist • Scandinavian Publishing Co., Ltd. • Thailand

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